Just over a week ago, the notes soured. For over three years and up to three weeks ago, Charandass Persaud, the former parliamentarian sang the praises of the APNU+AFC government whom, he said, had done much for his home area, Region Six.
He sat with them, dined with them, travelled with them. One the night of December 21, he defected from the government benches and voted for the opposition PPP/C-sponsored no-confidence motion against the David Granger-led government, triggering upheaval as his stunned colleagues and the country grappled with the implications of the passage of the no-confidence motion. Persaud soared into infamy and by the next day was in Canada, where he is a citizen.
Based on their reaction, his APNU+AFC parliamentary colleagues never saw it coming. Just two weeks earlier, during his Budget 2019 presentation on December 4, while acknowledging that sugar estates including the Rose Hall estate was closed by the coalition government, Persaud argued that the workers were paid a severance which is “more money than (they) received during their working years.”
Speaking extemporaneously for the most part, the then MP highlighted that some workers used their severance payments to buy cars and renovate their homes, something they could not have done on the weekly salary they were getting while the estate was open.
“We were giving money to a business that did not bring back anything in return,” he said in defence of the closures adding that “it wasn’t the APNU+AFC government that crippled the sugar estate, that was done a long time ago by the PPP.”
“We are trying Sir, to make the people comfortable but many of those workers are still employed by the estate,” he had told the House while challenging opposition parliamentarian Vishwa Mahadeo, who is also from Region Six, to dispute his claims.
“That (continued employment) did not stop us from paying them severance. If you were not employed then fine, but you have the benefit of the severance and the salary you are currently drawing. What is there to complain about?” he asked.
Referencing a neighbour in Canje who allegedly went on television in Berbice to claim he was unable to send his children to school because of the estate closure, Persaud told the House, “Sir, it was about two weeks after the severance was paid and he doesn’t have a child nor an adopted child either.”
At no point during his 20-minute presentation did Persaud indicate dissatisfaction with any government policy. Instead, he argued that government has done much for Region Six.
Projects he highlighted included several capital investments at New Amsterdam Hospital namely the extension of the Maternity ward, the construction of doctors’ quarters, the completion of Phase II of construction of the CT scan room and the rehabilitation of the room used by doctors to rest while on call.
It is not clear if at this point, Persaud had intended to vote against the government. He has claimed that his December 21 actions were planned “quickly.” Stabroek News understands, however, that over the last several weeks, the now former parliamentarian was divesting himself of property he owned in this country.
But following his shock vote, Persaud’s tune changed. On Christmas Day, from his Canada home, Persaud uploaded a 25-minute video in which he accused government of destroying the sugar industry.
“They (government) killed sugar, they destroyed the life of people, they killed rice….The government did nothing to help these businesses and the people directly connected to them,” he said while emphasising that he does not regret his decision.
Further, after telling reporters that Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan had offered him security that fateful Friday night, Persaud on Christmas day claimed that Ramjattan was lying to make himself look good and did not provide security for him to leave Parliament.
Further, he criticised the actions of the Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs for stopping the vote count after the ruckus that erupted when Persaud voted. Isaacs has since responded that immediately after calling for Persaud’s vote, he moved on the next MP but the disruption which ensued, necessitated a halt.
Persaud had claimed that he voted for his constituents as they were suffering. It is not clear whether he will seek to improve their lives from his new home.